ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

With the 'gig economy' moving to the forefront of research on service labour, interest has heightened in the techniques of labour control that reproduce it. Taking tipping as just such a technique, this article explores critically the policy research around 'tipped' employment in the United States. In the United States, tipping is a legally recognised form of labour remuneration that informalises the wage relation, incentivises the worker in precarity, and internalises social relations of subordination. Understanding tipped work, its legal status, its operative logic, and the contradictions that arise within its framework, is a priority for relevant social policy analysis. The aims here are: 1) to set out the 'topography' of the policy landscape on tipping in the United States; and 2) to problematise the current scope of this policy literature in societal terms. This research will focus on the restaurant industry, but will establish its broader societal significance.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage: Critical Directions
for US Policy Research
Jacqueline Ross
and John Welsh
School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), University of Bristol, UK.
∗∗Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland.
E-mail: john.welsh@helsinki.
With the gig economymoving to the forefront of research on service labour, interest has
heightened in the techniques of labour control that reproduce it. Taking tipping as just
such a technique, this article explores critically the policy research around tipped
employment in the United States. In the United States, tipping is a legally recognised
form of labour remuneration that informalises the wage relation, incentivises the worker in
precarity, and internalises social relations of subordination. Understanding tipped work,
its legal status, its operative logic, and the contradictions that arise within its framework, is
a priority for relevant social policy analysis. The aims here are: 1) to set out the
topographyof the policy landscape on tipping in the United States; and 2) to pro-
blematise the current scope of this policy literature in societal terms. This research will
focus on the restaurant industry, but will establish its broader societal signicance.
Keywords: Intersectionality, minimum wage, restaurant industry, sociology of work,
In some work places such as carwashes and restaurants where wages and tips are generally both
low, workersincome can rely upon tips. These tips, meant as a reward for good service, instead
serve as a critical wage subsidy that brings workerswages just up to the legally mandated
minimum wage. This system disproportionately impacts women and minorities and prevents
some workers from coming forward to voice concerns fearing retaliation.
In the restaurant sector of the United States, where the practice of tipping is axiomatic, there
exists a two-tiered minimum-wage system consisting of the regular minimum wageand the
tipped minimum wage.Thetipped minimum wageis a sub-minimum wage paid by
employers to tipped workers that is ostensibly designed to compensate tipped workers up to
the regular minimum wage in the event of a shortfall in their tipped income below that level,
but which does not otherwise oblige employers to pay above the compulsory base of the
tipped minimum wage. The effect is to create a two-tier minimum wage system, and it is a
highly contested element of employment and welfare policy in the United States (see
McDonough, 2019). At both the Federal and State levels, it has become the focal point for
an emerging discourse of labour struggle and reform across the expanding service sectors
that dominate certain regions of the economy (Kapur, 2017). In 2018, Commissioner
Social Policy & Society (2021) 20:2, 192210
© Cambridge University Press 2020.
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Reardon of theNew York State Department of Labor (NYSDL) began a public hearing on the
tipped minimum wage by stating that Governor Cuomo has directed this agency to ensure
that no workers are more susceptible to exploitation because they rely on tips to survive
(Reardon, 2018). In December 2019, the Governor issued the Minimum Wage Order for
Miscellaneous Industries and Occupations, following states such as California, Alaska, and
Washington, toward creating one single minimum wage in place of the two-tiered system
(Governor's Press Ofce, 2019). At the Federal level, the Raise the WageBill, proposed to
Congress in 2019, aims to raise the regular minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, and
gradually to eliminate the tipped minimum wageentirely. As a technical device, the
tipped minimum wageis evidently a problematic and controversial issue, and it is at the
policy forefront of questions regarding labour control, neoliberalisation, industrial relations,
social reproduction, immigration, capital accumulation, and the intersectional racing and
gendering of social relations.
Tipping is an instructive and illuminating place to direct our sociological analyses,
because the societal signicance of the technique of tipping goes much further than the
setting of the restaurant industry. Apparently a simple means of labour remuneration in
determinate processes of production, tipping is actually a key device of social reproduc-
tion in general, and is thus marked with extraordinary societal importance. When stripped
of context, the technical operation of tipping conforms very closely to the post-Fordist
logic of work and economic organisation that is characteristic of neoliberal political
economy (see Amin, 1994; Piore and Sabel, 1984; Offe, 1985; Lash and Urry, 1987; Görz,
1989). At the most strategic level, the early twenty-rst century is witnessing a transfor-
mation in political economy across the capitalist core states away from accumulation by
expanded reproductionand toward a low-growth accumulation regime predicated on
accumulation by dispossessionand rent-seekingbehaviours (Harvey, 2004; Hudson,
2012; Lapavitsas, 2013; Andreucci et al., 2017; Bin, 2018; Welsh, 2019a, 2019b, 2020).
This kind of zero-sum political economy makes for a profound transformation of work,
employment, and labour relations into forms more appropriate to this political economy.
Our argument is that the neoliberal paradigm of political economy has proven
surprisingly weak at sustaining rounds of capital accumulation (Harvey, 2005,2010,
2015; Duménil and Lévy, 2011), which in turn implies a long-term threat to the social
reproduction of capitalist social relations. Consequently, a strategic imperative has
emerged to realise more efcaciously the political pacication and economic mobilisa-
tion of labour that is required for more sustainable accumulation and thus of continued
systemic reproduction. The object of this imperative is to realise a deepened and
intensied real subsumption of labour
in the core states of the world-system (see Negri,
1992: 92; Marx, 1993: 400-1; Read, 2002), and it is toward this real subsumption that
changes in the technical organisation of work need to be approached in our critical
sociological analyses.
Work and labour control in this process of real subsumption are increasingly
characterised by informalisation,internalisation and incentivisation in their technical
logic. These are three succinct vectors through which we can grasp the real subsumption
in emergent labour forms, and they are all exemplied brilliantly in the technique of
tipping. The informalisation of work is evident in the migration of employment relations
away from institutional settings, the deconstruction of politico-legal frameworks within
which productive processes have been historically coordinated, the dismantling of the
structures of welfare-state capitalism, the exibilisation of worktimes, and the digitisation
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
of previously physical or analogue relations in the work place. This informalisation of
work constitutes one element in the neoliberal reorganisation of the mode of production
that has aimed to restore accumulation processes by redening the terms of the capital-
labour relation. Internalisation alludes to the shift away from a disciplinary modality of
labour control achieved through the externally imposed formation of habits and the spatial
disposition of bodies that was typical of the factory, prison, schoolroom and barracks of
the industrial paradigm (Foucault, 1991; Gill and Pratt, 2008; Rancière, 2012: 31;
Andreescu, 2016; Welsh, 2018). Internalised technique in labour control eschews the
imposition of panoptic discipline and instead engenders a transformation in the subjec-
tivity of the worker itself. Finally, incentivisation is the emphatic shift in capitalsmodus
operandi to seek the mobilisation of energy on the part of the worker, contriving
techniques that situate the worker within a population by which they are governed
and through which their subjectivities are transformed into willing subjects (Deleuze and
Guattari, 1983; Deleuze, 1992; Lordon, 2014). The obedient worker is now the willing
worker, and the imposition of command is replaced by the free choiceof the worker to
labour for capital.
Through informalisation,internalisation and incentivisation, we can see how labour
control delves into our subjectivities to achieve its objective of a more governable
subjectivity (see Lazzarato, 2006; Blackman et al., 2008). We can perceive the heightened
importance of performancein work that is willed(Butler, 1990). We can understand
why affectivity and emotion might be decisive conduits in work that play upon our
internalised commitments and loyalties (Azar, 2007b; Hardt, 1999,2007; Hardt and
Negri, 2000). We can grasp why work is necessarily more precarious (Butler, 2006;
Standing, 2011); and we can acknowledge that the choiceto labour thusly might just as
easily be described as conative enslavement(Lordon, 2014).
As informalisation,internalisation and incentivisation have become increasingly
relevant to the techniques of post-Fordist productive organisation, the technique of
tipping has emerged as a highly effective and revealing exemplar of this logic. An analysis
of tipping therefore has the potential to coordinate empirically our understanding of these
vectors of labour control into both a rich and striking object of sociological insight
regarding emergent work forms.
We contend that tipped work is once again becoming an increasingly prevalent form
of remuneration beyond the conventional bounds of the hospitality industries, and that
trends such as uberisationthreaten to normalise the tipping technique into many other
spheres of productive and reproductive activity. Politically signicant here is how
techniques like tipping are part of a move toward forms of work closer to personal
servicesthan to productive employment, resulting in a multiplication of what André Görz
called The New Servants across the core states of the world-system (Görz, 2012: 44-52;
see also Lash and Urry, 1987: 161-95; Bowman and Cole, 2009). Understanding why this
shift is happening, as well as how this class is generated, controlled, exploited, and
mobilised, is then an essential task for critical sociological analysis, and presents as a
formidable undertaking for those interested strategically in social policy formation in this
new context. If $30 per month is all it takes to dene a tipped worker, one can see how
innumerable forms of work could gravitate into the orbit of the tipping technique.
Given that it entails performativeand emotionallabour, service work generically is
subject to a modality of management technique quite different from other labouring
processes (Johnston and Sandberg, 2008; Brook, 2009a, 2009b, 2013). This technique has
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
been expressed simply as the management of feeling to create a publicly observable
facial and bodily display(Hochschild, 1983: 7; see also McFadden, 2015), but as a
requirement of paid employment and commodication of the self (Davis, 2003). In the
case of tipped workers, especially those in the restaurant industry, work requires a hyper-
performance of emotional labour (see Azar, 2007b). The typical assumption around
emotional labour is that it is sold for a wage(Hochschild, 1983: 7). However, tipped
work is not emotional labour exchanged for wages, but is rewarded with tips. Outside the
wage form, tipping intensies the effects of emotional labour on workers, as their income
is directly related to the extent to which they can manage not only their feelings, but the
feelings of customers too, leaving the worker in an extraordinarily precarious, vulnerable,
and demanding position. It is no surprise that the majority of emotional labour is
performed by women, extending their affective and emotion work from the reproductive
space of the home into the realm of employment.
As a related subeld of service work, we have already witnessed an eruption of
sociological interest in the gig-economy(Snider, 2018; Johnes, 2019). This term should
be understood as service work characterised by instability, impermanence, exibility, and
with an orientation around performance. This interest is developing into a concern over its
quality (Muntaner, 2018; Torres, 2018; Flanagan, 2019), into discussion over how to
classify the work done within it (Healy et al.,2017), and into debate over the societal
implications of this new modality of work and employment (Tran, 2017). All of these
developments are stimulating innovative critical analyses as the predicate for effective and
progressive policy formation. Policy analyses will have to grasp the central importance of
techniquein this transformation of labour control, and then link the forms of work
emergent from such technique to the new global political economy, if effective and
reexive policy formation is to be conceived and put into practice. Though the future of
the gig economyis by no means determinate (Healy et al.,2017), to understand the
technical operation of tipping is perhaps to see many of our futures through a glass darkly
(see Kalleberg, 2003), and to understand how it is implicated in the reproduction of
exploitative, racist and sexist social relations immanent to neoliberal capitalism (Lowrey,
2019; Ferdman, 2016).
This means that, aside from its direct bearing on issues of policy formation in the
service sector of the United States, the analysis of tipping is of great sociological import
generally because of what it can reveal to us about developments outside the United
States (i.e. United Kingdom), as well as more fundamental societal operations in the
contemporary transformation of work and labour generally. Specically, analysis of
tipping as a technique of labour control can illuminate much in how social relations
of exploitation, appropriation, and domination are reproduced intersectionally in neolib-
eral capitalism, by both transguring subjectivities and inscribing new lines of differentia-
tion in the social relations of production and reproduction.
The aim here is to set out the contours of the policy problem of the tipped minimum
wage, so as to make a further societal statement on tipping as a technique of labour
control in the context of neoliberalism as a troubled regime of accumulation.
The problem of tipping
First, let us be clear on what tipping actually is. According to Daniele Archibugi, a tipis
dened as the price, determined unilaterally by the customer, for a service received ::: It
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
is not obligatory, and its amount is not xed in advance, except by a social code(2004: 1).
Commensurately, a tipped employeeis one who engages in an occupation in which he
or she customarily and regularly receives more than $30 per month in tips(USDL, 2019c).
Whereas wages are xed and allow a worker to depend on income, tips are something
unxed, exible, and subject to arbitrary determination. They are then clearly a more
precarious source of income than wages. Tipping in the United States is a customary and
expected practice in various service industries, specically within the restaurant sector,
and constitutes the bulk of many restaurant workersincomes. It is not merely a marginal
supplement to a regular waged income, as one would nd in other societies (i.e. Europe).
The general ideal around the use of a tipping system is that it incentivises workers to
improve the quality of service provided and to increase the economic efciency of work
performed (Azar, 2007a: 1917). However, the quality of service does not necessarily or
proportionally effect the tip given in practice (2007a: 1924-1925), and service quality is
contextually dependent upon a range of variables, from the type of establishment or
disposition of patron in question to the cultural mores and economic environment of the
geographical locale. The other aspect to tipping, often not discussed, is that it allows
restaurant owners to pay their workers a lower wage, irrespective of categorically
sweeping claims to the contrary, and understanding how and why this is the case will
be at the core of this article.
Tipping is a prevalent custom across the United States, though it is becoming
increasingly common in other economies across the core of the world-system. Focusing
our analysis on the restaurant industry we nd that, as of 2016, there are 2,600,500
persons employed as waiters or waitresses in the United States, along with 611,200
bartenders, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS, 2018,2019a, 2019b).
The three million tipped workers in the US restaurant industry are situated in a plural and
heterogeneous restaurant landscape. High end restaurants are juxtaposed with more
affordable chain restaurants, as well as so-called mom and poprestaurants. This variable
landscape, combined with the uneven tipped wage policies across the United States,
creates a structure that exposes many to exploitative practices, especially in terms of
gender, class, and race, whilst others enjoy more comfortable, remunerative, and secure
circumstances. There is then a considerable variation in wages, tips, revenues, costs, etc.,
depending on the state, city, neighbourhood, cuisine, and clientele in which the tipped
worker nds themselves.
How then can we understand the support for tipping and the tipped minimum wage
policy? In keeping with neoliberal theory, tips are seen by agencies like The Heartland
Institute or The Mises Institute as a device that provides freedom and choice in the spirit
of entrepreneurialism and free marketideology (Zahringer, 2014; Federal News
Network, 2018; Glans, 2018).
It is seen to give choice to the customer, granting them
the freedomto leave a tip determined by what they think is appropriate as the purchaser
of the service. Owners of restaurants are seen to be partially freed from the burdens of paid
wages and red tape (Adams, 2018), and are instead able to concentrate upon organisation
and provision of overheads. Finally, the tipped workers themselves benet from the
provision of a space that liberates them from wage limitations, and frees them to enjoy
greater returns on their productivity. The worker is given the opportunity to become a
mini-entrepreneur who works a space,
and who can make tips well in excess of
prospective wages, as long as they are good enough, work hard enough, and stay
productive. While this rhetoric is doubtless connected to the exibilization of labour
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
discourse (Felstead and Jewson, 1999; Reilly, 2000), and so is congenial to the ears of
those in business and other uncritical devotees of free marketideology (i.e. Siebert,
1997), it is often in practice closer to the realities of precariousand contingentlabour
(see Gray, 1995; Barker and Christensen, 1998; Kalleberg, 2003; Standing, 2011). Across
the economy as a whole, the beneciaries of the practice of tipping constitute a minority,
privileged by a range of factors including geography, sex, and race (Haley-Lock and Shah,
2007: 488; Jayaraman, 2016: 9-10).
Studies funded by scally conservative think tanks, like the Employment Policies
Institute or the Economic Self-Sufciency Policy Research Institute, deny that a raising of the
tipped minimum wage would deliver nancial benet to poor restaurant workers (see Sabia
et al., 2018). Tasked politically with reducing the minimum wage generally, these studies
arguably conform the terms of their analyses to their ideological and special interest
objectives. For example, by replacing the individual with the household as the basic unit
of analysis, Sabia et al. demonstrate that raising the tipped minimum wage would be a
poorly targeted policy to deliver income to poor restaurant workers(2018: 637). Such an
analytical move subsumes the individual into precisely those asymmetric social relations
that the tipping technique relies upon for its subordinations and control. Vested interest
studies do not (cannot) consider whether or not the very existence of the tipped minimum
wage itself increases poverty levels. Whilst studies such as this focus on the manipulation of
the tipped-minimum wage as an object of policy tinkering, our analysis advocates for the
removal of the tipped minimum wage altogether, and thus of the matrix of social relations
that it brings into being. Becoming stuck in the issue of its manipulation as a policy
instrument, studies too often evade the powerful argument for its total abolition, a move that
would obviate their carefully framed objections in a stroke. What is decisive is that the value
of abolition becomes apparent only in the context of a critical perspective on tipping as a
technique in general, something that is absent in vested interest studies.
Despite the sanguine portrayal of the practice, tipping actually brings with it an
impressive historical legacy of inequality, disparity, and a particular asymmetry of power
relations, not to mention a problematic relationship with the distinctively modernlogic of
Society. It is an undemocratic means of control, for it creates a system of distorted
incentivesthat instrumentalise the individual (Archibugi, 2004: 60), rather than treating
them as ends in themselves (see Marcuse, 2002; Fromm, 2003), and through which
service is aligned with the wills of others (see Lordon, 2014), leaving the server without a
clear and unambiguous structure on which to base their rights and recourse. It also
devolves onto the server a large share of organisational labour usually left to the
managerial and proprietorial levels, and it places the server into a divisive set of relations
with other workers, both tipped and non-tipped.
Historically, tipping emerged in European societies as a way of compensating servants
in Tudor England, at theearly-modern intersection of the feudal and money economies, and
spread in periods of economic downturn through the late nineteenth century and into the
early twentieth century (Hill, 1996: 64-92; Van den Eeckhout, 2015). These were down-
turns that enlarged the reserve army of labour, introduced greater vulnerability and
precarity into the labour force, and strengthened the structural position of the owners of
capital and property in the economy. Many cafés, restaurants, salons, and bars exploited the
greater availability of surplus labour and found that by providing/producing a space for
tipped-labour to replace waged-labour, employers were able to escape the obligation of
having to pay for labour (Van den Eeckhout, 2015: 349-50), or at least to shift that burden
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
on to others. One could see this as another historical example of the perennial tendency of
capital to internalise prot and income, whilst externalising cost and risk.
Ironically, the transfer of the custom of tipping from Europe to the United States was not
met positively, but was generally treated rather as a despicable, undemocratic, and wholly
un-Americanpractice that was inconsistent with the egalitarian rhetoric of the Declaration
of Independence and the mores of colonial society (Segrave, 1998:5-6;Jayaraman,2016:
33; Shanker, 2016). The inltration of tipping to the United States in the nineteenth century
primarily occurred through the hospitality and railroad industries. Employers fought to
emplace and maintain tipping, because they employed many former slaves and argued that
they should not have to pay former slaves wages, the reasoning being that as long as they
were receiving tips, wages were not necessary (Jayaraman, 2016: 33-34). Tipping is also a
signicantly gendered custom, derived as it was from the early-modern enclosure of women
(Federici, 2004). Since then most domestic servants have been women, and presently nearly
70 percent of Servers are female (Hill, 1996: 4-5; Allegretto and Cooper, 2014: 2), with that
proportion rising as one moves down the income pyramid. A study by Adam-Smith, Norris
and Williams reveals a similar trend of gender segregation in corresponding hospitality jobs
in the UK (Adam-Smith et al., 2003: 31). Historically, tipping is then a persistent and
recurrent form of orchestrating the reproduction of labour in the United States that is
intimately associated and embroiled in racist and sexist asymmetries, and which is
imbricated into a wider historical legacy of servitude and subordination (see Cobble,
1992;Ferdman,2016). What is needed then are critical analyses on tipping, the policies
which surround it, and the societal implications of those policies beyond the narrow
concerns of business and public administration.
Whilst there is literature on tipping policy to be found on US Government websites,
such as the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or from
think-tank institutions like the Economic Policy Institute, they are limited in sociological
scope. Likewise, while a few labour pressure groups, such as the Restaurant Opportunities
Center United (ROC-United), have done extensive research on tipping and tipped
minimum wagepolicy that is informative, it lacks a theoretically articulate critique of
social problems and does not reach the level of sociological analysis required for an
academic literature on tipping. However, aside from a number of cursory and relatively
descriptive pieces (i.e. Archibugi, 2004), the academic sociological literature on tipping is
surprisingly small and too often treats tipping as a normative puzzleto be solved(Azar,
2007a). Critically effective policy research however can be built upon a number of pillars.
Historical analyses are essential to understand the profound social logic operative in the
tipping practice (see Van den Eeckhout, 2015), as well as the socio-political agenda that
they serve. Sociological analyses that work auto-ethnographically at the intersection of
personal experience and critical theory can be especially propitious for the constitutive
process of critical praxis that is informative of policy production (Dowling, 2007,2012).
Finally, Allegretto and Cooper (2014) offer the point of departure in the loose policy-
oriented literature around tipping, particularly around the question of the tipped mini-
mum wage, and it is to this issue that we must now turn.
The tipped minimum wage
The parameters to tipping policy in the US are established essentially by the federal
government, but individual states have some jurisdiction.
Minimum wage law is
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
governed by the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This initially provided protection
for government employees and those who worked in interstate commerce, but the law has
exponentially expanded since then, and a 1966 Amendment to the FLSA widened its
scope to encompass service workers, including restaurant workers (Allegretto and Cooper,
2014: 2). This in turn means that the minimum wage base is controlled predominantly by
the federal government. States must at least meet the minimum established by the federal
government, but states can elect to increase their minimum wage above this level. In
addition to the regular minimum wage there is also a tipped minimum wagefor legally
recognised tipped workers, creating a two-tiered wage systemin those sectors of the
labour market (Allegretto and Cooper, 2014). The federal tipped minimum wagestands
currently at $2.13 per hour, as opposed to the regular federal minimum wage of $7.25 per
hour (USBLS, 2018). We have used information from the Economic Policy Institute to
compile a table which shows the various state minimum wages, both tippedand regular
(see Table 1).
The tipped minimum wageis used as a way to pay workers in order to benet the
employer under what is called a tip creditsystem. The idea being that tips will make up
the difference from the tipped minimum wageof $2.13 an hour to the regular federal
minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, a difference of $5.12 an hour. For example, a Server is
paid the federal tipped minimum wageof $2.13 an hour, with the assumption that their
tips will be at least $5.12 per hour, thus taking the Servers hourly income up to $7.25 per
hour in total. The employer claims this $5.12 per hour as wages paid toward the employee
via tips. In practice, this system relieves the owner of providing the full minimum wage to
their employees. The logic behind this relief is that the employee is customarily receiving
money for their work from customers in the form of tips and so the burden of a full
minimum wage is unfair and economically deleterious for the employer. The FLSA §3(m)
outlines the requirements of this tip creditsystem. Below is an outline of the ve
requirements in the FLSA §3(m), and in addition to this an employer must inform any
tipped employeeof these ve requirements, either in written or in verbal form, in order to
claim the tip credit(FLSA: Fact Sheet #15):
1) The amount of cash wage [wage] the employer is paying a tipped employeemust be
at least $2.13 per hour.
2) The additional amount claimed by the employer as a tip creditcannot exceed $5.12
(the difference between the minimum required cash wage of $2.13 and the current
minimum wage of $7.25).
3) The tip creditclaimed by the employer cannot exceed the amount of tips actually
received by the tipped employee.
4) All tips received by the tipped employeeare to be retained by the employee except for
a valid tip pooling arrangement limited to employees, who customarily and regularly
receive tips.
5) The tip creditwill not apply to any tipped employee, unless the employee has been
informed of these tip creditprovisions.
Naturally, restaurant owners with tight margins benet from this $5.12 tip credit,by
virtue of the lower labour costs it entails, and employer groups lobby intensely for its
maintenance. How can we handle the problems with this tip creditsystem? First, there
are a number of problems with the tip creditsystem as dened, which can be subject to
critical scrutiny on its own terms.
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Table 1. Federal and States’‘Minimum Wage/Tipped Minimum Wage
US States +DC Minimum Wage Tipped Minimum Wage
1. Federal (USA) $7.25 $2.13
2. District of Columbia $13.25 $3.89
3. Alabama $7.25* $2.13*
4. Alaska $9.89 $9.89
5. Arizona $11.00 $8.00
6. Arkansas $9.25 $2.63
7. California $12.00 $12.00
8. Colorado $11.10 $8.08
9. Connecticut $10.10 $6.38
10. Delaware $8.75 $2.23
11. Florida $8.46 $5.44
12. Georgia $5.15** $2.13
13. Hawaii $10.10 $10.10
14. Idaho $7.25 $3.35
15. Illinois $8.25 $4.95
16. Indiana $7.25 $2.13
17. Iowa $7.25 $4.35
18. Kansas $7.25 $2.13
19. Kentucky $7.25 $2.13
20. Louisiana $7.25* $2.13*
21. Maine $11.00 $5.50
22. Maryland $10.10 $3.63
23. Massachusetts $12.00 $4.35
24. Michigan $9.25 $3.52
25. Minnesota $9.86 $9.86
26. Mississippi $7.25* $2.13*
27. Missouri $8.60 $4.30
28. Montana $8.50 $8.50
29. Nebraska $9.00 $2.13
30. Nevada $8.25 $8.25
31. New Hampshire $7.25 $3.26
32. New Jersey $8.85 $2.13
33. New York $11.10 $7.50
34. New Mexico $7.50 $2.13
35. North Carolina $7.25 $2.13
36. North Dakota $7.25 $4.86
37. Ohio $8.55 $4.30
38. Oklahoma $7.25 $2.13
39. Oregon $10.75 $10.75
40. Pennsylvania $7.25 $2.83
41. Rhode Island $10.50 $3.89
42. South Carolina $7.25* $2.13*
43. South Dakota $9.10 $4.55
44. Tennessee $7.25* $2.13*
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Firstly, we call into question whether or not tipped employees are actually informed
about the rules which surround the tip creditsystem. One of the authors of this article has
worked as a tipped employee in numerous locations over the course of sixteen years and
has not once been informed of these ve rules. Additionally, the FLSA requires that
employers either post the minimum wage provisions in a visible area of the workplace or
verbally inform employees of the provisions. However, there is no requirement to post this
information in any language other than English. Given the large Spanish-only speaking
labour force in the service sectors of the United States, it is easy to see how this
requirement allows employers to abide by the rule to inform without adequately informing
their employees in practice (Flores, 2017).
Secondly, there is no clarity regarding whether or not this tip-credithas a xed unit
of measurement. Is this credit applicable on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. If a tipped
worker is legally permitted to receive $2.13 per hour, how is the tip creditapplied
(in what unit), if the worker does not make the full $5.12 to reach the minimum of $7.25 in
a given hour? For example, if a server receives only $15 in tips for an eight hour shift, and
earns their $2.13 tipped minimum wage for those eight hours, their total income for the
day (tips plus wages) would be $32.04. If instead the server were to be paid the federal
minimum wage for this same eight hour shift without tips, their income would be $58.00
for the day, a difference of $25.96. Are employers required to make up the difference of
the tip creditfor this specic day, for every hour, or do they make up the difference at the
end of the week? If the income for the rest of this work week is taken on average, and thus
these low income days are considered to be irrelevant, a space for abusive practices is
produced. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2016) and the Economic Policy
Institute (2017: 7-8), minimum wage laws indicate that the FLSA does dene the work
week for minimum wage workers as a seven day period, but they do not dene when the
tipped minimum wage differential must be paid, whether this is hourly, daily or weekly. In
short, the tip-credit policy is crucially unclear in key areas, but is this merely a legal
Table 1. (Continued)
US States +DC Minimum Wage Tipped Minimum Wage
45. Texas $7.25 $2.13
46. Utah $7.25 $2.13
47. Vermont $10.77 $5.39
48. Virginia $7.25 $2.13
49. Washington $12.00 $12.00
50. West Virginia $8.75 $2.63
51. Wisconsin $7.25 $2.33
52. Wyoming $5.15** $2.13**
Source: Economic Policy Institute (2019) [accessed 14.01.2020].
Tipped Minimum Wage same as Federal Minimum.
Minimum and Tipped Minimum Wage are the Same.
Minimum and/or Tipped Minimum Wage Above Federal Minimum.
* State has no minimum, federal minimum applies by default.
** Workers not covered under Federal Labor Standards Act receive below federal minimum.
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
oversight or something essential to the informalisations of tipping as a technique? Whether
the policy allows for a rolling accumulation of tips, or just for an average of tips weekly,
the Server can be exposed to seriously precarious and unstable circumstances, and, as
tipped workers often live hand to mouthwith a high propensity to consume income
earned, this uncertainty and ambiguity can have signicant impacts. Though general
payday requirements are regulated through the FLSA (USDL, 2018), Workweekand
Hours Workeddo not specically touch on the complexity of tipped workerswages and
income (USDL, 2019a). This adds another layer of confusion to the tipping policy in the
United States (U.S. Department of Labor, 2016).
A third problem with the tip-creditsystem is that it is employers who report on the
employeestips. The restaurant industry has one of the highest rates of wage theft in the US
(Hallett, 2019: 100). According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, tipped
workers are especially prone to suffer wage theft because of their separate treatment
under the law [FLSA](Economic Policy Institute, 2017: 7). Consequently, it is the tipped
worker themselves who must keep track of the wage differentials that arise from the tipped
minimum wage. Hallett points to instances not only of wage theft arising from this separate
treatment under the law, but theft of workerstips as well (2019: 99-100). Employers can
easily report false income for their employees, due to the fact that many tips are received
in cash and record keeping is often informal. There is an obvious incentive to report false-
tips, and it can prove quite lucrative for an employer to manipulate the $5.12 differential
that they report for many employees over the course of many months. Additionally, it can
also be difcult to prove that employers are not paying the tip creditdifferential, when
employees tips do not add up to the $7.25 minimum. One might assume it to be an
uncommon occurrence, but in January of 2019 a restaurant called Maxs Pizza Inc.
(New York) was found guilty of violating the tipped minimum wage law and of not paying
their employees the necessary difference to reach the $7.25 federal minimum (USDL,
2019b). Instances such as this require the Federal Government, under the FLSA, to retrieve
back wages for employees. However, if for some reason an employer has been stealing
tips from their employees, the FLSA only requires restitution up to the $7.25 minimum
wage to the Server, no more.
Lastly, the federal tipped minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13 per hour since
1991 (Allegretto and Cooper, 2014). According to Saru Jayaraman, the head of ROC-
United, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has much to do with this wage freeze.
The NRA is a powerful association of restaurant owners and corporations. They have
previously worked with restaurant groups such as Darden, whose holdings include a
chain called The Olive Garden, and they boast a membership of over 500,000 other
restaurant businesses, for whom they advocate. It also has a board membership ranging
from the CEO of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide a high-end restaurant group to a member
of the elite US Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100. This association has great
lobbying power in the US Government, and is even referenced as a source of information
on the USBLS Occupational Outlook Handbook on Waiters and Waitresses (2019a)!
The Policy Agenda on their website is focused specically at benetting restaurant
with little mention of other perspectives. The inuence of this association was
made clear back in 1996, when Congress increased the regular minimum wage to $7.25
per hour on the understanding that the NRA would not oppose a modest increase in the
overall minimum wage, as long as the minimum wage for tipped workers would in turn
stay frozen forever(Jayaraman, 2016: 8-9). The $2.13 per hour tipped minimum wage has
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
been thus frozen for twenty-three years, and this policy has endured since to the direct
benet of large corporations and restaurant owners.
These are some of the problems with the tipped minimum wagepolicy, and the
tip creditsystem, on their own terms. However, if we are to delve more critically into
tipping as a technique of labour control, and into its societal implications, the proble-
matisation of the tip creditsystem has to go beyond the terms of the tipped minimum
wage itself, and into the space that it creates. Understanding why that space exists and
how it operates is something that can be explored through poststructuralist theory, and by
the notion of intersectionality in particular.
Tipping and the intersectionality of exploitation
However valid the criticisms directed at the tipped minimum wagepolicy might be, they
do not address the more fundamental problem of tipping itself as a technique of labour
control. It is to this problem that we must turn before concluding remarks.
Firstly, because of the impersonal, categoric, and statistical way in which tipping
policy is mostly discussed, the great heterogeneity of social relations through which
tipping operates is missed by policy researchers. When tipping research follows the
categorical contours of social relations, such as race, gender, age, etc., the manifold
complexity of how tipping activates these relations is not adequately brought out.
Secondly, the space provided by the tipped minimum wageproduces more governable
subjectivities in workers by the way that it internalises and informalises social relations of
subordination and dependence, in order to incentivise greater labour surpluses toward
Together, these two considerations require a sophisticated and versatile means of
approaching the problem of tipping that is capable of coordinating the two into critical
analysis. Gendering and racialising are simply the historically convenient idioms by
which the heterogeneity characteristic of the restaurant industry is translated into strategies
and tactics of labour control, and this coordination of categorical contours with political
economic objectives is what is meant here by intersectionality.
Put simply, intersectionality supposes that inequities are never the result of single,
distinct factors, but are the outcome of intersections of different social locations, power
relations and experiences(Hankivsky, 2014: 2). It operates on the premise that oppres-
sion is not a singular process or a binary political relation, but is better understood as
constituted by multiple, converging, or interwoven systemsof subordination that overlap
(Carastathis, 2014: 304). It assumes the concept of the simultaneity of [race, gender and
class] intersection in peoples lives(Belkhir, 2001: 146), and it is a mode of analysis in
which structures of domination are taken to be interactive rather than additive(Einspahr,
2010: 15). Rather than a solution to the policy problem of tipping, intersectionality offers a
provisional conceptfor recasting the terms in which the problem can be engaged
effectively, subtly, and critically without marginalising those not privileged in the policy
discourse (Crenshaw, 1991: 1244-5). In contrast, one nds that the separability of
oppressions is premised on centring the essentialized experiences of relatively privileged
members of oppressed groups(Carastathis, 2014: 305; see also Harris, 1990), and that is
the largely unrecognised problem at the heart of the tipping policy debate today.
As we have seen, it is a crucial effect of the tipped minimum wagethat it introduces
and perpetuates fragmentation within the labour force, such as in the restaurant industry,
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
with concomitant effect upon organised labour movements. There is a popular myth
which exists in the United States that tipped workers make a signicant income from tips
(Jayaraman, 2016). However, many workers in the restaurant industry are living at, near,
or below poverty lines. Jayaraman points out that
there is a prevalent misconception among the public that the National Restaurant Association
has painted, it is based on the ne dining male server earning an $18 an hour wage and living
the high life. This painting is false, especially since two thirds of servers are women working in
casual restaurants with an average hourly wage of $8.77 (2016: 9-10).
Nearly 70 per cent of servers are women (Allegretto and Cooper, 2014). Shaw et al.
reported that, of women workers in the serving occupation, 24.1 per cent were living in
poverty and 26.4 per cent were living near poverty (Shaw et al.,2016: 19). Tipped work is
female-dominated and among the lowest paid occupations, and women of color are
overrepresented in low-wage, female-dominated occupations overall(Allegretto and
Cooper, 2014: 26). It seems that the beneciaries of the tipped minimum wage structure
are employers, corporations, and to some extent male waiters working in ne dining
Not only does the tip creditsystem disproportionally harm women in terms of
income but the reliance on tips without a stable base wage to depend upon exposes
tipped women workers to signicant instances of sexual harassment and other forms of
dependence-induced abuse. The restaurant industry has the highest report rate of sexual
harassment of any industry in the United States, and 90 per cent of women in the industry
have reportedly experienced being sexually harassed (Johnson and Madera, 2018). The
sub-minimum wage policy that dominates the restaurant industry leaves the ability to
decide who gets paid, how much they get paid, and why they are paid to the subjective
and arbitrary discretion of customers who too often see tipped workers as subordinates
whom they can intimidate, make lewd remarks to, and even touch. The relation of
dominance does not remain simply between the customer and tipped worker, but migrates
into relations with co-workers and managers as well. A report published by ROC-United
found that tipped workers were the victims of sexual harassment on greater levels than
non-tipped workers, and that those tipped workers who received the federal tipped
minimum wage of $2.13 an hour were more likely to be sexually harassed (ROC-United,
2014: 2). Moreover, it is unsurprising that levels of harassment increase further for
transgender individuals (ROC-United, 2014: 19).
Tipping does not function therefore through a single axis of social relations, but
through a complexity. The kind of single-axis framework(Crenshaw, 1989: 139), around
which the policy discourse on tipping has mostly concentrated, predicates the worker-
employer relationship as almost the sole object of analysis, policy-formation, and political
action, and foregrounds those privileged amongst servers in the implicit denition of that
single-axisrelationship. In the early work on intersectionality, Kimberle Crenshaw herself
made clear that this focus on the most privileged group members marginalizes those who
are multiply-burdened and obscures claims that cannot be understood as resulting from
discrete sources of discrimination(1989: 140). Instead, an intersectional analysis of
tipping requires us to place the Server at the centre of a matrix of social relations that the
tipping technique generates its space’–and to recognise how that technique realises
complex forms of oppression from multiple vectors. It is the lack of multidimensionality
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
that prevents a more sophisticated understanding of the operation of tipping, and which
intersectionality can open up to critical analysis in further research.
Concluding remarks
There are then two potential areas of sociological research on tipping policy to be
developed. One on the tipped minimum wageanalysed critically within the parameters
of the extant policy discourse, and another on tipping in general as a technique of social
control. How can we conclude on these two aspects of the tipping question?
The tip credit system is vague and confusing at best, and lack of clarity combined with
great variation in policy creates a structure which promotes exploitation and domination
of individuals along the categorical contours of gender, race, and class, inter alia. The
various minimum wage policies in the United States create a confusing and at times
unnavigable terrain. This produces signicantly different work environments and experi-
ences for employees, and the difference between a standard minimum wage and a tipped
minimum wage may have signicant effects on workers in different regions. To put the
matter starkly, the tip creditsystem for a male waiter in an upscale New York City
steakhouse might not be harmful, but the tip creditsystem for a single mother working as
a waitress in a rust belt town without many employment opportunities is something
entirely different. Attempts to address the disparities that this system produces are being
made by the non-prot organisation ROC-United (see Brady, 2014).
ROC-United has been ghting a campaign called One Fair Wage, which promotes
the increase of the tipped minimum wage to the standard federal minimum wage. This
campaign has met much confusion amongst both workers and the general public, as well
as resistance from business opposition, for whom the worker fragmentation engendered
by tipping is strategically decisive. This resistance focuses on the idea that ROC-United is
moving to eliminate tipping, which is a highly contested position. There are many people
who make more than the minimum wage in their position as a tipped worker, and so
reducing their pay to the minimum wage would be highly undesirable to them. However,
the One Fair Wage campaign does not suggest an elimination of tipping, but it does
highlight how the combination of a sub-minimum wage and the predominant reliance on
tips for income exposes many workers to signicant exploitation and subordination. The
confusions which surround these policies make them difcult to navigate and any
campaign which aims to change this policy will have to deal with both the confusing
policy topography and the political inuence of a wealthy and powerful association of
vested interests.
Extant policy discourse misses the bigger question of tipping itself, and more critical
and theoretically articulate research needs to be integrated into social policy discourses
on tipping and wages, and brought to bear upon policy debates, if the societal scope of the
policy problems is to be properly considered. This second objective for a critical sociology
on tipping has merely been indicated here, and further research is doubtless necessary.
So where does this leave us? Whilst valid and necessary critical intervention into the
tip creditsystem can be undertaken through the terms of the extant discourse on the
tipped minimum wage, the latter question is one of much greater historical, political, and
even philosophical bearing, despite its relative absence from the policy literature. If the
societal implications of the technique of tipping are to be integrated into policy formation
and analysis, then it is from this second area of research that it will come.
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
In terms of a clear policy prescription, we can start by separating the tipped minimum
wage from the broader question of tipping in general. On this basis, we can afrm that
abolition of the tipped minimum wage does not entail an abolition of tipping, and will not
thereby endanger the relative prosperity of workers who are advantaged by the practice of
tipping in terms of their immediate material self-interest. Abolishing the tipped minimum
wage raises the income oor for those most vulnerable without removing the ceiling for
other tipped workers. What it does do is to remove the tip credit system, the space the
latter provides for abusive practices, and in doing so it will internalise employer costs into
a formality that is more germane to democratic and legal oversight by government. As to
the practice of tipping itself and the longer term interests of workers, whether material or
immaterial, this highly complex and very political matter will require much deeper and
extensive study.
1 Commissioner Reardon, New York State Department of Labor, April 20, 2018.
2 The formal subsumption of labouralludes to a situation where capital incorporates under its own
relations of production labouring practices that originated outside its domain. Posterior to this, the real
subsumption of labouris where the integration of labor into capital becomes more intensive than extensive
and society is evermore completely fashioned by capital(see Hardt and Negri, 2000: 254-256).
3 Such arguments are legion amongst employer groups, and can readily be found on the webpage
for Restaurant Workers of America, which is a US employer organisation for employers and owners from
across the restaurant industry. See
4Spacehere is something carved out of the medium of social relations, and which is entailed in the
notion of a social production of space(see Lefebvre, 1991).
5 See the Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act (USDL, 2016).
6 Not only do states often have a different minimum wage to the federal minimum wage, but regions
and cities may have different minimum wages as well: for example, New York City. The information in the
chart only shows the general minimum wage for the state.
7 See
8 Over 30 per cent of the Hispanic speaking population in the United States do not have English
Prociency (Flores, 2017). This percentage is much higher (65 per cent) among foreign born Hispanic
9 The U.S. Department of Labor website states that the FLSA does not provide wage payment
collection procedures for an employees usual or promised wages or commissions in excess of those
required by the FLSA.
10 See
11 See
Adam-Smith, D., Norris, G. and Williams, S. (2003) Continuity or change? The implications of the National
Minimum Wage for work and employment in the hospitality industry,Work, Employment and
Society, 17, 1, 2947.
Adams, E. (2018) What the tip credit really means to a restaurants operational budget,Skift Table,https://
[accessed 10.07.2019].
Allegretto, S. and Cooper, D. (2014) Twenty-three years and still waiting for change: why its time to give
tipped workers the regular minimum wage,Economic Policy Institute,
publication/waiting-for-change-tipped-minimum-wage [accessed 10.07.2019].
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Amin, A. (ed.) (1994) Post-Fordism: A Reader, Oxford: Blackwell.
Andreucci, D., García-Lamarca, M., Wedekind, J. and Swyngedouw, E. (2017) ‘“Value Grabbing”–a
political ecology of rent,Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 28, 3, 2847.
Andreescu, F. (2016) Embodied subjects in late capitalism,Subjectivity,9,2,14550.
Archibugi, D. (2004) Tips and democracy,Dissent, 50, 2, 5964.
Azar, O. H. (2007a) Incentives and service quality in the restaurant industry: the tipping-service puzzle,
Applied Economics, 41, 15, 191727.
Azar, O. H. (2007b) Why pay extra? Tipping and the importance of social norms and feelings in economic
theory,The Journal of Socio-Economics, 36, 2, 25065.
Barker, K. and Christensen, K. (eds.) (1998) Contingent Work: American Employment Relations in
Transition, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Belkhir, J. A. (2001) Marxism without apologies,Race, Gender and Class,8,2,14271.
Bin, D. (2018) So-called accumulation by dispossession,Critical Sociology, 44, 1, 7588.
Blackman, L., Cromby, J., Hook, D., Papadoulos, D. and Walkerdine, V. (2008) Creating subjectivities,
Subjectivity, 22, 1, 127.
Bowman, J. and Cole, A. (2009) Do working mothers oppress other women? The Swedish Maid Debate
and the welfare state politics of gender equality,Signs, 35, 1, 15784.
Brady, M. (2014) An appetite for justice: The Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, in R. Milkman
and E. Ott (eds.), New Labor in New York: Precarious Workers and the Future of the Labor Movement,
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Brook, P. (2009a) The alienated heart: Hochschildsemotional labourthesis and the anticapitalist politics
of alienation,Capital and Class, 33, 2, 731.
Brook, P. (2009b) In critical defence of emotional labour”’,Work, Employment and Society, 23, 3,
Brook, P. (2013) Emotional labour and the living personality at work,Culture and Organisation, 19, 4,
Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble, London: Routledge.
Butler, J. (2006) Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence, London: Verso.
Carastathis, A. (2014) The concept of intersectionality in feminist theory,Philosophy Compass,9,5,
Cobble, D. S. (1992) Dishing it Out: Waitresses and Their Unions in the 21st Century, Champaign:
University of Illinois Press.
Crenshaw, K. (1989) Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: a black feminist critique of
antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics,University of Chicago Legal
Forum, 13967.
Crenshaw, K. (1991) Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women
of color,Stanford Law Review, 43, 6, 124199.
Davis, J. E. (2003) The commodication of self,The Hedgehog Review 5(2): 4149.
Deleuze, G. (1992) Postscript on the societies of control,October, 59, 37.
Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1983) Anti-Oedipus, Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Dowling, E. (2007) Producing the dining experience: measure, subjectivity and the affective worker,
Ephemera, 7, 1, 11732.
Dowling, E. (2012) The waitress: on affect, method and (re)presentation,Cultural Studies/Critical
Methodologies, 12, 2, 10917.
Duménil, G. and Lévy, D. (2011) The Crisis of Neoliberalism, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Economic Policy Institute (2017) Employers steal billions from workerspaychecks each year,The
Economic Policy Institute,
paychecks-each-year/ [accessed 14.10.2019].
Economic Policy Institute (2019) Minimum wage tracker,The Economic Policy Institute,https:// [accessed 10.07.2019].
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Einspahr, J. (2010) Structural domination and structural freedom: a feminist perspective,Feminist Review,
94, 1, 119.
Federal News Network (2018) Foodie and the beast,
beast-2/2018/06/the-debate-on-the-minimum-wage-for-tipped-restaurant-workers-in-d-c/ [accessed
Federici, S. (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, New York:
Felstead, A. and Jewson, N. (1999) Global Trends in Flexible Labour, London: Macmillan.
Ferdman, R. A. (2016) I dare you to read this and still feel good about tipping,The Washington Post,https://
tipping-in-the-united-states/?utm_term=.94c2fcb737b2 [accessed 18.02.2019].
Flanagan, F. (2019) Theorising the gig economy and home-based service work,Journal of Industrial
Relations, 61, 1, 5778.
Flores, A. (2017) Facts on Latinos, 2015: Statistical portraits of Hispanics in the United States,Pew
Research Center,
[accessed 18.09.2018].
Foucault, M. (1991) Discipline and Punish, London: Penguin.
Fromm, E. (2003) Man for Himself, London: Routledge.
Gill, R. and Pratt, S. (2008) In the social factory: immaterial labour, precariousness and cultural work,
Theory, Culture and Society, 25, 7-8, 130.
Glans, M. (2018) Research & Community: ending the tip credit would hurt tipped workers,The Heartland
the-tip-credit-would-hurt-tipped-workers [accessed 30.11.2019].
Görz, A. (1989) Critique of Economic Reason, London: Verso.
Görz, A. (2012) Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology, London: Verso.
Governor's Press Ofce (2019) Governor Cuomo Announces End of Subminimum Wage Across Miscel-
laneous Industries Statewide,The Ofcial Website of New York State,
[accessed 12.06.2020].
Gray, A. (1995) Flexibilisation of labour and the attack on workersliving standards,Common Sense, 18,
Haley-Lock, A. and Shah, M. (2007) Protecting vulnerable workers: how public policy and private
employers shape the contemporary low-wage work experience,Families in Society, 88, 3, 48595.
Hallett, N. (2019) The problem of wage theft,Yale Law and Policy Review, 37, 1, 92152.
Hankivsky, O. (2014) Intersectionality 101,The Institute for Intersectionality Research and Policy, Simon
Fraser University, Canada, 134.
Hardt, M. (1999) Affective labor,Boundary 2, 26, 2, 746.
Hardt, M. (2007) Forward: what affects are good for, in P. Clough and J. Halley (eds.), The Affective Turn:
Theorising the Social, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Hardt, M. and Negri, T. (2000) Empire, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Harris, A. P. (1990) Race and essentialism in feminist legal theory,Stanford Law Review, 42, 3, 581616.
Harvey, D. (2004) The newimperialism: accumulation by dispossession,Socialist Register, 40, 6387.
Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harvey, D. (2010) A Companion to Capital, New York: Verso.
Harvey, D. (2015) Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, London: Prole Books.
Healy, J., Nicholson, D. and Pekarek, A. (2017) Should we take the gig economy seriously?,Labour and
Industry, 27, 3, 23248.
Hill, B. (1996) Servants, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hochschild, A. (1983) The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, Berkeley: University of
California Press.
Hudson, M. (2012) The Bubble and Beyond, ISLET: Dresden.
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Jayaraman, S. (2016) Forked, New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
Johnes, G. (2019) The gig economy in the UK: a regional perspective,Journal of Global Responsibility, 10,
3, 197210.
Johnson, S. and Madera, J. (2018) Sexual harassment is pervasive in the restaurant industry. Heres what
needs to change,Harvard Business Review, 18 January,
is-pervasive-in-the-restaurant-industry-heres-what-needs-to-change, [accessed 18.01.2018].
Johnston, A. and Sandberg, J. (2008) Controlling service work: an ambiguous accomplishment between
employees, management and customers,Journal of Consumer Culture, 8, 3, 389417.
Kalleberg, A. L. (2003) Flexible rms and labor market segmentation,Work and Occupations, 30, 2,
Kapur, A. R. (2017) A faulty federal standard: a call for a federal minimum wage that is actually fairunder
the Fair Labor Standards Act,University of Miami Business Law Review, 25, 3, 13770.
Lapavitsas, C. (2013) Proting Without Producing, London: Verso.
Lash, S. and Urry, J. (1987) The End of Organized Capitalism, Cambridge: Polity.
Lazzarato, M. (2006) Immaterial labor, in P. Virno and M. Hardt (eds.), Radical Thought in Italy,
Minneapolis, MS: University of Minnesota Press, 13350.
Lefebvre, H. (1991) The Production of Space, Oxford: Blackwell.
Lordon, F. (2014) Willing Slaves of Capital, London: Verso.
Lowrey, A. (2019) The truth about the gig economy,The Atlantic, 14 January, https:// [accessed
Marx, K. (1993) Grundrisse, London: Penguin.
McFadden, P. (2015) The production of politics in front-line service work: body workin the labour
process of the call centre worker,Global Society, 29, 1, 89106.
Marcuse, H. (2002) One Dimensional Man, London: Routledge.
Muntaner, C. (2018) Digital platforms, gig economy, precarious employment, and the invisible hand of
social class,International Journal of Health Services, 48, 4, 597600.
McDonough, A. (2019) Whats happening to the tipped minimum wage?,City and State: New York,22
[accessed 26.04.2020].
Negri, A. (1992) Marx Beyond Marx, London: Pluto Press.
Offe, C. (1985) Disorganized Capitalism, Cambridge: Polity.
Piore, M. J. and Sabel, C. F. (1984) The Second Industrial Divide, New York: Basic Books.
Rancière, J. (2012) The Intellectual and His People: Staging the People: Volume 2, London: Verso.
Read, R. (2002) Primitive accumulation: the aleatory foundation of capitalism,Rethinking Marxism, 14, 2,
Reardon, R. (2018) Subminimum wage hearing,New York State Department of Labor,https:// [accessed 26.04.2020].
Reilly, P. (2000) Flexibility at Work: Balancing the Interests of Employers and Employee, London: Routledge.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) (2014) The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the
Restaurant Industry, New York: ROC-United,
The-Glass-Floor-Sexual-Harassment-in-the-Restaurant-Industry.pdf. [accessed 26.04.2020].
Sabia, J., Burkhauser, R. and Mackay, T. (2018) Minimum cash wages, tipped restaurant workers, and
poverty,Industrial Relations, 57, 4, 63770.
Segrave, K. (1998) Tipping: An American Social History of Gratuities, Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing.
Shanker, D. (2016) How American tipping grew out of racism,Quartz,
american-tipping-grew-out-of-racism/ [accessed 09.02.2019].
Shaw, E., Hegewisch, A., Williams-Baron, E. and Gault, B. (2016) Undervalued and underpaid in America:
women in low-wage, female-dominated jobs,Institute for Womens Policy Research (IWPR #D508),
jobs/ [accessed 17.11.2018].
Understanding the Tipped Minimum Wage
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
Siebert, H. (1997) Labour market rigidities: at the root of unemployment in Europe,Journal of Economic
Perspectives, 11, 3, 3754.
Snider, L. (2018) Enabling exploitation: law in the gig economy,Critical Criminology, 26, 4, 56377.
Standing, G. (2011) The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, London: Verso.
Torres, N. (2018) Are there good jobs in the gig economy?,Harvard Business Review, July-August.
Tran, M. (2017) The gig economy and contingent work,Journal of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine, 59, 4, 636.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) (2018) Occupational Employment and Wages: Waiters and
Waitresses, Occupational Employment Statistics,
[accessed 15.05.2019].
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) (2019a) Occupational Outlook Handbook: Waiters and Waitresses,
12 April, [accessed
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) (2019b) Occupational Outlook Handbook: Bartenders,https:// [accessed 12.04.2019].
U.S. Department of Labor (USDL) (2016) Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Wage
and Hour Division, [accessed 26.04.2020].
U.S. Department of Labor. (2018) Fact Sheet #15 Tipped Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Wage
and Hour Division, [accessed 15.04.2019].
U.S. Department of Labor (2019a) State Payday Requirements, Wage and Hour Division, 1 January, https://, [accessed 01.01.2019].
U.S. Department of Labor (2019b) New Release U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Finds North
Carolina Pizzeria Violated Minimum Wage and Child Labor Laws, Wage and Hour Division, https:// [accessed 08.01.2019].
U.S. Department of Labor (2019c) Tips, Wage and Hour Division,
wages/wagestips [accessed 08.05.2019].
Van den Eeckhout, P. (2015) Waiters, waitresses, and their tips in Western Europe before World War I,
International Review of Social History, 60, 3, 34978.
Welsh, J. (2018) The meta-disciplinary: capital at the threshold of control,Critical Sociology, 44, 1, 2944.
Welsh, J. (2019a) Dispossessing academics: the shift to appropriationin the governing of academic life,
European Journal of Social Theory, doi: 10.1177/1368431019854998.
Welsh, J. (2019b) Tolling academics: rent-seeking and gatekeeping in the university space,Capital and
Class, doi: 10.1177/0309816819900131.
Welsh, J. (2020) ‘“Globalizingacademics? Ranking and appropriation in the transformations of the world-
system,Globalizations 17, 1, 12645.
Zahringer, K. A. (2014) The economics of tipping,The Mises Institute,
tipping [accessed 12.11.2018].
Jacqueline Ross and John Welsh
Downloaded from Helsinki University Library, on 10 Mar 2021 at 14:14:24, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
... So, how does tipping fit into this tableau? At its simplest, tipping is the practice of paying for personal services directly to the server according to the purchaser's immediate proclivity in the context of a culturally determined social code, rather than a formally fixed tariff, price, or schedule paid to employers of service labor (Archibugi, 2004;Ross and Welsh, 2021). In the United States, tipping is a customary and ubiquitous practice across numerous service industries, which often are already low-paid, female-dominated, and reliant on immigrant labor. ...
... Crucially, tipping is not just a marginal supplement to a regular waged income, as one would find in other societies such as in Europe, but the primary source of income for most restaurant workers, which currently stands at about 3 million workers across the United States (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS), 2018, 2019a, 2019b). Tipping becomes a way to reduce further the low-wages of service labor within capitalist accumulation imperatives (Ross and Welsh, 2021). ...
... It is against this discursive and ideological backdrop that groups like the Restaurant Workers of America (RWA, 2020), an organization that fights to maintain tipping and the 'tip-credit' system (Ross and Welsh, 2021), can therefore claim a commitment 'to preserving the freedom and flexibility of America's restaurant workers' in their eagerness to embrace the spread of tipping. Similarly, articles discussing the pros and cons of tipping on and on the National Restaurant Association (NRA) website point to the 'flexibility' and 'earning potential' that tipping makes possible for tipped workers (Cake, 2019; NRA, 2019). ...
Full-text available
'Tipping' has been a legally recognized form of labor remuneration in the United States for many decades, but it is experiencing a resurgence outside of its usual confines in the hospitality sector. The proliferation of the practice is bound to the long-term economic shift into services, as well as the more recent expansion of the gig economy. Tipping informalizes the wage relation, incentivizes the worker in precarity, and internalizes social relations of subordination, and is thus a highly effective technique of labor subsumption particularly suitable for the idiomatic kind of social dependencies and subordination required by an increasingly 'neo-feudal' capitalism. Around the spread of the practice, there is an apologetic liberal discourse on freedom and 'choice' that emphasizes the supposed advantages of tipping for the worker subjected to it, over and above the increasingly problematic wage relation. Drawing anecdotally on a critical insider-ethnography of laboring in the restaurant industry of the Hamptons (Long Island, New York), and by enlisting a Neo-Roman concept of liberty, the article attempts a critical reappraisal of liberal claims regarding tipping as a form of remuneration in the so-called 'service sector'. Instead, we indicate how tipping actually produces more appropriately governable worker subjectivities for capital.
... Whilst it is true that vectors of affect other than labour are integral to real subsumption in the society of control, consumption being one of the most celebrated, it is labour above all that the camp as a modulation strives to access, mobilize, and coordinate. As the intensive internalization of incentive encapsulates so much of our experiences of the distinctly neoliberal organization of capitalism (Ross and Welsh, 2020), the operation and modulation of that control in terms principally of labour therefore needs to be articulated, if we are to have any prospect for self-government and autonomy within its 'problemspace'. ...
... Finding such a companion permits philosophy and literature to be brought into a more productively critical relation with one another. If we are tasked with finding 'philosophies of the will' in literature, and to perceive 'how the will… takes form and is given form within the works themselves' (2014, p. 15), then The Gulag Archipelago is a rich addition to any willfulness archive (see Welsh, 2020). ...
... To return to the text of The Gulag Archipelago is to immerse oneself in precisely this savoir of power. Criticized by Marxists in the 1970s for the absence of a 'global systematic theory which holds everything in place' (see Welsh, 2020), Solzhenitsyn's 'literary investigation' explores 'the specificity of mechanisms of power', their penetrations of the 'soul', their manifold 'connections and extensions'. To absorb the book is not to integrate a formulated theory of action, but to 'build little by little a strategic knowledge' of power, capitalism, and how we are 'made live and let die' in ways that are iterative yet novel. ...
Full-text available
So much of what we experience in neoliberal capitalism resembles the operation of the camp. How then can we understand the camp as a political technology of labour control recurrent in historical capitalism, and why would we want to? Driven by the perennial imperatives to govern (Foucault) and to accumulate (Marx), the camp as a modulation of social control allows us to explore the role of 'meta-disciplinary' technique in the 'real subsumption of labour'. The aims here are (1) to question the sanguine expectations of a liberal pastorate that is inextricable from the needs of capital; (2) to articulate the 'techniques of domination' experienced in the idiom of neoliberal capitalism; and (3) to find inspiration for corresponding counter-conducts and 'techniques of the self'. This article offers a kind of historical archaeology of 'meta-disciplinary' technique by resuscitating Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago", a surprisingly rich source of insight into the operations of the camp modulation and the counter-conducts it engenders. The analysis to follow works in the space between Marxian and Foucauldian political thought opened up by the new materialisms, and draws upon the recent works of Lordon, Lazzarato, Negri, inter alia, that are currently enriching critical theory.
... This has legalized what has been considered an informal labor relation, namely, flexible worktimes. What is significant here is that informalization of work is one of the main characteristics of the real subsumption of labor arising from neoliberal reorganization of production (Ross & Welsh, 2021). ...
Full-text available
In 2016 Brazil’s Senate ousted the popularly re-elected President Dilma Rousseff, who had been accused of budget mismanagement under the pretense that she committed an impeachable crime that justified the parliamentary coup. This paper investigates the hypothesis that her government was removed once it could no longer sustain a neoliberal pro-finance agenda, which depends on the state, and that the forces that seized power promised to restore and strengthen. Pro-finance policies had been established in the 1990s by the Cardoso government and were maintained by the Lula da Silva government. The latter, nevertheless, was able to raise wages, as did Rousseff, but more slowly. Her government also loosened some neoliberal policies, such as the so-called fiscal austerity. Rousseff’s non-elected successor, Michel Temer, tried to limit budget spending by implementing a 20-year ceiling on the real growth of virtually all expenditures except public debt interest. He also began aggressive privatizations and, after curtailing labor protections, proposed a regressive social security reform to further cut state expenditures. Thus, the Temer government promoted dispossessing policies to redistribute economic surpluses—e.g., through future primary fiscal surpluses—and allow the expansion of capital accumulation. The latter is driven by the proletarianization that follows welfare cuts—i.e., cuts in the social wage—due to the budget cap and regressive social security and labor reforms that sought to increase the supply of cheaper labor-power. Capital could also expand because budgets can increase the commodification by private companies of hitherto state-provided pensions and healthcare.
Full-text available
Assuming the 'neoliberalisation' of academic life to be axiomatic, this article delves into the operations of its political economy with the aim of expanding critical vocabularies, analytical categories and research trajectories. In particular, it indicates where an immanent critique of neoliberal academia can be begun. While the capitalist transformations of academic life are justified by ideological claims eulogising 'production', 'competition' and 'marketisation', the neoliberal regime has proven decidedly ineffective at fulfilling these claims. An effective critique of neoliberal reform must, therefore, explore and interrogate the degree to which the practical effects of neoliberal reform diverge from its underpinning theoretical claims, and why this might be so. The principal question here pertains to rent and rent-seeking behaviour in the academic space, as a mode of activity inconsistent with the legitimating tenets of capitalist ideology. To the extent that rent-seeking activities can be identified in neoliberal academia-in distinction to 'value-producing' labour or 'profit-making' entrepreneurialism-a more potent critique of neoliberal reform will be forthcoming and an immanent critique of the neoliberal regime of capitalist accumulation in the academic space put into motion. By positioning the neoliberal regime within a broader shift towards accumulation by 'appropriation' in the world-system, a strategic reason can be identified for the proliferation of rent-seeking behaviours in academic life and beyond. The article argues that these rent-seeking behaviours have materialised in a range of gatekeeping techniques across the academic space, with which many inhabitants of that space have become complicit, resulting in the increasing dispossession of surplus through the practice of tolling realised in those techniques. The article develops a Marxian critique with additional insights from world-system theory, critical social theory and critical geography. Examples of gatekeeping technique considered throughout the article include master degree programmes, journal publication structures, conference fees and Graduate Record Examinations.
Full-text available
In an historical materialist analysis, the article challenges the dominant understanding of global academic rankings as ‘inevitable’ and ‘here to stay’. Instead, rankings are treated as historically transformative ‘tracings’ over the accumulation of capital in the world-system, and thus offer a contingent strategic response to three historical shifts in global political economy: ‘financialization’, displacement of the Core, and an shift to surplus ‘appropriation’ in the core. By understanding these transformative shifts as elements of an historic ‘inversion’ of the global frontier of capitalization, the argument: (1) connects global rankings to neoliberal capitalism; (2) challenges the utopian view of rankings as instruments of marketization; and most specifically (3) opens up a space between frontiers of appropriation and commodification proper, indicating how rankings exist in a historically transient and politically dialectical space of hybrid outcomes, imperfect commodifications, and indirect subjections, that are bound to the contradictions of accumulation in contemporary world history.
Full-text available
This article offers a critical theoretical exploration of the transformation of academic life that is currently taking place under the sign of ‘neoliberalization’. The main aim is to differentiate appropriation from exploitation as strategies of surplus labour dispossession, to identify the growth of appropriative techniques in academic life, and to situate the proliferation of such techniques in the broader transformations of global political economy. Alloyed with poststructuralist social theory, the historical materialist thrust of the article demonstrates how, in the technologically articulate ‘social factory’ of advanced capitalism, the spatial operations of these techniques of dispossession have a particularly ‘aesthetic’ character that is immanent to their appropriative operation, and which renders their workings both more discreet and effective. The article aims: (1) to problematize the neoliberal concepts of efficiency, transparency, and autonomy, in terms of practical outcomes; (2) to stimulate reflexive consideration of the ‘positioning’ of academics themselves in the reproduction of these techniques; and (3) to ask how these techniques might generate new ‘historical subjects’ of struggle and organization in academic life.
One of the major contributions of the operaista tradition is the concept-and hands-on investigation-of class compostion. A detailed analysis of the real conditions of workers today is necessary to validate any analysis of contemporary capitalism, as well as its potential sites of struggle; only thus can the concepts of immaterial and affective labour be useful politically. This article is a contribution to such an effort. Working as a waitress in a restaurant in a metropolitan city, where both the product of my work and the means by which it was produced were highly 'affective', I have been in a privileged position to experience first-hand the material conditions of this type of labour. This article addresses the way in which affective and immaterial labour have been characterised in the literature from the point of view of my experience. How well does the way in which these forms of labour are defined apply to the service work I performed? In particular I will take up the debates around the organisation and (im-)measurability of affective labour, and how this can (or cannot) open up possibilities for resistance in the specific context of my example. I then wish to show what can be generalised from this case study and consider what this means for the further development of the debates around affective and immaterial labour. In the immaterial labour literature service work, as affective work, is considered one of its components. Having worked as a waitress for ten years, I have been in a privileged position to think about the lived experiences of such a worker. The contribution I offer here is an autobiographical engagement with one particular employment experience. I have not conducted a full-scale inquiry or co-research using interviews; nor did I work as a waitress for research purposes, hence I did not engage in conscious covert or overt participant observation whilst working. Rather, as someone employed full-time as a waitress in this establishment over a period of 18 months, I draw from my recollections the points I discuss in this article.
Purpose A quarterly series of gig economy activity in the regions of the UK is constructed. Patterns of regional linkages are identified and the implications of spatial patterns for policymakers, businesses, workers and institutions are highlighted. Design/methodology/approach The Labour Force Survey data on main job self-employment in key gig economy sectors are used to construct the series. These are then analysed using vector autoregression techniques to identify patterns in the data and provide provisional forecasts. Findings The incidence of gig economy activity is greatest in the London region, characterised by high population density and a concentration of service sectors in which gig economy work, particularly of a highly skilled nature, takes place. Growth of gig economy activity in other regions has been more modest. In London, the percentage of workers in the gig economy is expected to rise to around 6.5 per cent over the next few years, while in other regions, the percentage is expected to settle at between 3 and 4.5 per cent. Originality/value These are the first regional estimates to be provided of the extent of gig economy activity. This is important in the context of discussions about the future of work, not least because regional disparities imply the need for policies addressing insecurity to have a spatial dimension.
The history of domestic servants in Australia offers a provocative challenge to the prophets of the digital gig economy. Like home-based service workers today, 19th-and 20th-century domestic servants worked without the protection of minimum wages or hours, unions or independent arbitration and endured perpetually porous boundaries between their work and non-working time, low status and pay. This article argues that digital platforms are instruments of a fundamental shift in the governance of home-based service work, from a system of ‘dyadic’ to one of ‘structural’ domination. Intermediaries played virtually no role in the operation of the former system, but they play a fundamental role in the latter, as aggregators of data about workers’ responsiveness and speed that enable market-based disciplinary mechanisms to operate without reference to public law and across a much larger spatial context than was previously possible. Short-termism and the fungibility of workers are pre-eminent features of the gig economy model, processes which are inherently corrosive to quality caring relationships that demand an atmosphere of trust and non-instrumentality. The historical analysis that is advanced gives rise to a number of implications for the regulation of digital platforms, union responses and industry planning in the future. © 2018, Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC.